Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).
1. In verse 1 Isaiah assumes the role of a popular folk singer and sings a ballad about the Lord’s vineyard. What has the Lord done for His vineyard (see verse 2a printed below?) What does the vineyard represent (see verse 7a printed below?)
He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress. (Isaiah 5:2a)
The vineyard of Jehovah of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his choice plant. (Isaiah 5:7a)
The Lord took the greatest care to insure that His vineyard would produce good fruit: “He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress.” He asks in verse 4, “What more could have been done for my vineyard that I have left undone?” As we learn from verse 7a, the vineyard represents the nation of Israel, the Old Testament people of God.
2. What did the Lord expect His vineyard to produce? But what kind of crop did it produce? See Isaiah 5:2b,7b (printed below)
…he looked for it to produce a crop of good grapes, but it only produced wild grapes. (Isaiah 5:2b)
He looked for justice, but he found oppression; he expected righteousness, but he heard the cries of distress. (Isaiah 5:7b)
The Lord expected His vineyard to produce a crop of good grapes, but it only produced wild—bitter, inedible—grapes. The Lord expected His people to produce in their lives the “fruit” of justice and righteousness. But instead, they practiced social injustice, causing the distressed to cry out because of their oppression.
3. What will the Lord now do to His vineyard? See Isaiah 5:5-6 (printed below)
Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard. I will remove its protective hedge, and it will be devoured by wild animals. I will tear down its wall, and it will be trampled under foot. (6) I will make it a wasteland, it shall be neither pruned nor cultivated; briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain upon it. (Isaiah 5:5-6)
Because His vineyard has produced wild, sour, worthless, grapes, the Lord will destroy the vineyard and reduce it to a wasteland. He will tear down the protective hedge around it and allow it to be trampled down and devoured by wild beasts. This is a picture of the judgment the Lord would bring upon His disobedient Old Testament people—He would allow them to be invaded by foreign powers as the just punishment for their sins.
4. Verses 8-23 of Isaiah chapter 5 are describing the sins that were practiced by the nation of Israel at this time. What do you think is the particular sin and judgment described in verses 8-10 (printed below?)
Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field, until there is no space left and you live alone in the land! (9) Jehovah of hosts has spoken in my ear, Surely, many houses will become desolate—even great and beautiful mansions—they will be left without occupants; (10) because a ten-acre vineyard will produce only ten gallons of wine, and ten bushels of seed will produce only one bushel of grain. (Isaiah 5:8-10)
Verses 8-10 are addressing the sin of greed and covetousness. What is being described in verse 8 is a real estate monopoly: buying up all the properties until you own the entire neighborhood. In verse 9 the Lord reveals to Isaiah what is about to happen: the beautiful homes of the wealthy landowners will be left empty; they will become like old, abandoned farmhouses. All this shall be the consequence of the crop failure and the resulting economic collapse that the Lord shall bring about as an act of judgment (verse 10).
5. What do you think are the sins being described in verses 18-19 (printed below?)
Woe to those who pull iniquity along with cords of deceitfulness, and sin as if with cart ropes! (19) Woe to those who say, Let God hurry, let him be quick to do his work, so that we may see it! Let that which the Holy One has determined to do come and occur, so that we may experience it! (Isaiah 5:18-19)
Verse 18 is addressing the sin of self-deception. Verse 18 presents the picture of men strenuously dragging their sins unto themselves, and pulling their sins along “with cords of deceitfulness.” That is to say, as they engage in their sinful conduct they entertain self-deceiving misconceptions about God and about sin; namely, that God does not care if they engage in sin; because of His love He will not punish them. Verse 19 is addressing the sin of contemptuous defiance of God. The people are actually challenging God to enact His judgment against them. They erroneously assume that God is either too tolerant or too impotent to carry out the judgment He has threatened to inflict. But, as the history of Israel testifies, the people were tragically mistaken: the Lord did “tear down his vineyard.” He did punish His people by means of the invading Assyrian armies.